What is Obsessive Hoarding?

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen
Excessive shopping can be part of obsessive compulsive hoarding.
Excessive shopping can be part of obsessive compulsive hoarding.

Obsessive hoarding is the ongoing accumulation of physical goods by someone who does not have any appropriate use or storage for them. Hoarding behavior varies according to the individual hoarder. Some may engage in the obsessive hoarding of useless items, such as scraps of paper or broken junk, while others may hoard items that have some use or value, although not to the hoarder. Unlike collectors, hoarders do not have appropriate storage for their items, nor do they particularly take care of the things they hoard. Instead, the hoarder allows these items to accumulate in various places around his home, even if they begin to impede movement or create a health or fire hazard. Even though the items hoarded are of limited or no use to the hoarder and their presence in the home may be causing significant impairments in her day-to-day functioning, the obsessive hoarder is nonetheless unwilling to part with these items.

A rummage sale to get rid of clutter can help a person overcome hoarding.
A rummage sale to get rid of clutter can help a person overcome hoarding.

While many people are messy or just not particularly good housekeepers, most individuals manage to keep the clutter in their homes to a livable level. They have no problem making the occasional clean sweep and throwing or giving away items that have no value to them. Obsessive hoarding, on the other hand, goes beyond mere messiness. Sometimes known as pack rats, hoarders have emotional difficulty with the normal task of regularly eliminating items from the home. Despite the fact that the hoarder may not be able to describe how the items are of use to him or demonstrate any genuine care for the condition of the items, he will experience great distress at the thought of their removal. The result can be a home in which clutter makes it impossible to move freely, clean properly, or host company.

Not all obsessive hoarding is alike. While some hoarders may collect what appears to be garbage, such as old cardboard, others may accumulate items of value such as books or craft supplies. The difference between a hoarder and an enthusiast is that the hoarder acquires books or fabric, for example, in quantities that she is likely to never use and for which she does not have adequate storage. Enthusiasts, on the other hand, will buy books or fabric that they intend to use and will cease making purchases when they no longer have room to properly store them.

Obsessive hoarding is recognized in the mental health community as a pattern of behavior, and there is some discussion as to whether it should be considered a mental illness in its own right. Obsessive hoarding can be a symptom of several types of mental illness, including dementia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. Psychotherapy, as well as the assistance of a professional organizer, can help obsessive hoarders better understand and alter their behavior so as to be able to live a functional, healthy life.

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    • Excessive shopping can be part of obsessive compulsive hoarding.
      By: Odua Images
      Excessive shopping can be part of obsessive compulsive hoarding.
    • A rummage sale to get rid of clutter can help a person overcome hoarding.
      By: chantal cecchetti
      A rummage sale to get rid of clutter can help a person overcome hoarding.